Unfortunately, Invitation Only lost his unbeaten record in the Grade 2 Navan Novice Hurdle finishing third behind emphatic winner Death Duty. Despite stepping up in trip, it was a surprise to see Willie Mullins' charge ridden with restraint . The former pointer looked in trouble before the home straight and he was unable to match the winner for speed. On this evidence, he is crying out for a further step up in distance. The winner looks very good indeed and, while the Albert Bartlett NH is likely to be his principal target in the spring, Gordon Elliott has indicated the Grade 1 Lawlor Hotel NH at Naas in early January will be his next race.
Death Duty's stablemate Samcro maintained his unbeaten record by winning the concluding Listed bumper on the same card. Death Duty himself and Don Cossack have won the race in recent years and the former pointer looks a horse with a big future. Workmanlike in victory, Jamie Codd's mount was always holding runner-up Good Thyne Tara. Elliott suggested afterwards that the Germany gelding will probably only have one more race this season before embarking on a hurdling career next Autumn.
Buveur D'Air made a smooth start to his chasing career at Haydock yesterday. Nicky Henderson's five year old was rated a stone superior to chief rival Cloudy Dreams over hurdles but received eight pounds from Malcolm Jefferson's gelding at the Merseyside track. Given a confident ride by Aidan Coleman, he was quick over his fences and then showed a good turn of foot to settle the issue on the run-in. The runner-up emerged with plenty of credit but was simply beaten by a better horse. It will be interesting which route Buveur D'Air takes because stablemate Altior looks the Henderson number one for the Arkle Trophy. Yet to race beyond the minimum trip, Buveur D'Air is a half-brother to Punchestowns and therefore shouldn't have trouble staying further. It is worth noting Punchestowns didn't progress over fences but there was no evidence on Saturday that his younger sibling will follow suit.
Bun Doran provided the Top 40 Prospects with another winner at Newcastle on Saturday. Tom George's gelding was ridden too aggressively on his chasing bow at Uttoxeter last month before finishing third. Absent for a month, the ex-pointer was partnered by Adrian Heskin for the first time at Gosforth Park and was held up on this occasion. The change of tactics paid off as he readily landed the two and a half mile handicap chase. He is a promising young chaser with a bright future over fences. Indeed, he is the sort to be competitive in something like the BetVictor Gold Cup next season.
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